Lot 12
  • 12

Charles Thomson, as Secretary of the Continental Congress

5,000 - 10,000 USD
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  • Autograph document signed ("Chas Thomson"), ordering crucial reinforcements for the Siege of Yorktown
  • Paper, Ink
1 page (7 5/8 x 5 3/4 in.; 195 x 147 mm), "in Congress Assembled" [Philadelphia], 19 September 1781; mat burn, seal tear and repair costing portions of three letters.

Catalogue Note

This extract from the Minutes of the Congress orders troop towards Philadelphia as the climactic battle of the Revolutionary War nears: "Ordered that Major gen'l [Arthur] St. Clair cause the levies of the Pennsylvania line now in Pennsylvania to rendezvous at or near Philadelphia with all possible expedition."

While there had been some thought that the British might launch a counter-offensive against Philadelphia, the present orders indicates that Congress had adopted the view evinced by General Washington, then before Yorktown, in his order to St. Clair of 15 September: "I have to request you in the most earnest Manner to send forward all the Recruits that are furnished by the State of Pensylvania for their Line—Let it not be said that those Troops are kept from Service for Want of a few Articles which they could wish to be furnished with, when other Troops doing Duty in the Field are combatting almost every Distress imaginable, in the Want of almost every Necessary—If any Thing in the Power of the State, can be instantly done, towards their Equipment, I wish them to be called upon, & hope they will furnish without Delay—It is the highest Absurdity in the World, to keep those Troops in a State of Idleness at great Expense—& at same time for Want of them, to put the Publick to the same or much greater Charge by callg in the Aid of Militia, which we are now obliged to do, on the present Occasion—I beg you therefore to hurry on those Troops, with all the Expedition in your Power” (Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-06967).

Despite the urgency of these requests, the final detachment of St. Clair's Pennsylvania troops did not arrive at Yorktown until 19 October 1781—the day the British surrender terms were finalized.